If you have a large family, it’s likely that ground beef is on the menu pretty regularly. A welcome change from the usual burgers, meatloaf, chili, and spaghetti rotation, this riff on the Tex-Mex taco spices things up with a three pepper “pow.” Sauteed with onion, garlic and tomatillos, the cubanello, jalapeno, and poblano peppers cook up to a tartly flavorful sauce. Mixed with seasoned beef and layered with Mexican melting cheese between crisp fried tortillas, the flavor combo is delicious. Add some diced jalapeno, cilantro, sour cream, and a sprinkle of chili lime salt on top and dinner’s ready.
FOR THE SAUCE:
• 5 tomatillos, green husks discarded
• 1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp canola or safflower oil
• 1 medium onion, peeled, cored, and chopped
• 4 poblano peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
• 3 cubanello peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
• 2 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded, and finely chopped (Reserve 2 tsp. for garnish)
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
• 1 Tbsp chili powder
• ¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder (optional)
• 1 ½ pounds ground beef
• Salt and pepper to taste
FOR THE TORTILLA LAYERS:
• 2, 10-ounce packages corn tortillas
• Deep fat fryer filled to manufacturer specified level with vegetable oil
• 2, 12-ounce packages grated Quesadilla
• Ravado melting cheese
• Tajin-brand chili lime salt
• 1 small bunch cilantro leaves
• ¼ cup sour cream
• Tajin-brand chili lime salt
• 2 tsp reserved minced jalapeno
CHAR TOMATILLOS: Set oven rack to highest level near broiler heating element. Set oven to broil. Place tomatillos on a foil-covered baking pan, bottom sides up. Watching carefully, broil tomatillos until they char on the surface (about 4 minutes.) Flip the tomatillos and char again. Remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven off.
FRY TORTILLA RECTANGLES: On a clean work surface, using a sharp knife, slice down through one entire stack (one package worth) of the fresh tortillas, cutting about 1 inch of the rounded edge from one side of the stack. (Set this trim aside.) Repeat on the opposite side of the stack, again trimming 1-inch of the rounded edge. You will now have a 5 ½-inch-wide stack of tortillas, with a rounded edge on top and bottom. (Leave these remaining rounded edges intact.) Slice through the middle of this stack to create two stacks of 2 ½ x 5-inch rectangles of tortillas. (These are your “lasagna” noodles.) Repeat with the remaining package of tortillas. Heat oil in deep fat fryer to 375 degrees. Working in batches, fry four or five of the 2 ½ x 5-inch tortilla rectangles until crisp, pushing down into the oil if they float up. Drain on paper towels in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat until all of the tortilla rectangles are fried. (Some may curl and bend a bit, but that’s OK.) Add the tortilla trim to the fryer basket and fry to make tortilla crisps. Drain on separate paper toweling. Sprinkle tortilla crisps with chili lime salt.
PREPARE SAUCE: In a saute pan over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp oil and saute onion with the with poblano and cubanello peppers until quite soft. Add minced jalapeno and garlic and saute one more minute. Place pepper/onion/garlic mix in a food processor with the reserved charred tomatillos. Pulse until pretty smooth, with some texture remaining. Remove ½ cup of sauce to a small bowl to serve with crisps.
SAUTE BEEF: Wipe out saute pan and add remaining 2 tsp of oil over medium high heat. Sprinkle the paprika, chili powder, and cayenne pepper (if using) over the oil; stir for a few seconds until fragrant. Crumble ground beef into the pan, mixing with the spices and saute until cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside, keeping warm.
TO ASSEMBLE: Place a layer of the fried tortilla rectangles into the bottom of a baking pan. Cover with a layer of beef. Spoon a layer of sauce overall. Sprinkle with a layer of cheese. Top with more tortilla rectangles. Repeat layers. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place pan full of the Tex Mex Crispy Tortilla Lasagna into the oven and heat just until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and top with sour cream and sprinkling of minced jalapeno, cilantro, and Tajin chili-lime salt. Serve with the tortilla crisps and extra sauce on the side—or save the crisps for a snack later—they are delicious!